Richmond has once again rejected the proposed $562 million Richmond Grand Resort and Casino, dealing a blow to the project for the second time in three years. The 2021 vote saw 51% of Richmond voters opposing the casino project, with only 49% in favor.
One of the major promises tied to the casino project was the allocation of funds for childcare programs. This included an initial upfront payment of $26.5 million and an annual commitment of $19 million in casino revenue earmarked for the city. The rejection of the casino plan has raised questions about the future of childcare funding in Richmond.
Following the rejection of the casino project, CEO of the early childhood school readiness group Thrive Birth to Five, Ann Payes, expressed disappointment. Payes highlighted that the annual $19 million could have significantly supported early childhood education programs, addressing issues such as lengthy wait times for child care and reducing financial burdens on families.
Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney, a strong supporter of the casino effort, had proposed using the casino revenue to build childcare and education centers, fund parks and recreation projects, and establish a trust fund to expand childcare access to low- to middle-class families.
With the rejection of the casino, Stoney acknowledged that the plans for addressing the childcare shortage were no longer viable. The proposed $26.5 million upfront for child care centers and the annual commitment of $19 million to the Richmond Child Care and Education Trust Fund are now off the table.
Stoney’s office indicated that without the casino funding, alternative measures would need to be explored to address the childcare crisis. However, there are currently no plans to seek a tax increase for childcare funding.
The rejection of the casino has left childcare advocates and officials exploring other avenues for funding. Organizations like Thrive Birth to Five are turning to state and federal governments for increased funding. Payes emphasized a commitment to making early childhood care happen, even if at a slower pace. The Richmond Public School system is also applying for Head Start and Early Head Start grants to increase the number of available childcare slots.